NBA players who died on the court: Basketball players who died on the court

NBA Players Who Passed Away Too Young

This is a list of noteworthy NBA players who died while still in their basketball careers. A majority of NBA players died in an automobile or plane accident. Many people took their own lives. Some of the players died of abrupt cardiac death, which is more common among young basketball players. Some had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart ailment that is more frequent in African Americans. Basketball has a much higher percentage of African-American players than other sports. Other people died as a result of drug misuse. 

Athletes often appear larger-than-life due to the incredible feats of talent that we witness almost every time they enter the arena. However, now and then, we are reminded of how brief life is. And, just as we cheered them on while they were alive, we should remember to do the same in death, never forgetting the memories they gave us that will last a lifetime.

List of NBA players who died during their career or while playing Basketball

This is a full overview of NBA players who passed away and whose deaths were published in the media/news for a miscellany of causes, including car accidents, murder, self-suicide, cardiac arrests, natural deaths, and occasionally uncertain causes. So far, many NBA players have lost their lives while playing basketball for their beloved clubs. The following is a list of NBA players who died on the court from 1946 to the Present:

Year of DeathPlayerAge at DeathPositionNBA TeamCause of Death
2021Terrence Clarke19Shooting guardKentucky WildcatsDied in a car crash
2021Oscar Frayer23ForwardGrand Canyon AntelopesDied in a car crash
2021Stevan Jelovac32Power forward / CenterAEK AthensStroke during the practice session
2020Michael Ojo27CenterCrvena ZvezdaHeart attack during the practice session
2018Tyler Honeycutt27Small forwardBC KhimkiSuicide by gunshot (Self Suicide)
2018Zeke Upshaw26Small forwardGrand Rapids DriveCardiac arrest during the game
2017Fab Melo26CenterBrasíliaHeart attack while sleeping
2016Gilbert Bulawan29Power forward / CenterBlackwater EliteHeart enlargement during practice
2016Bryce Dejean-Jones23Shooting guardNew Orleans PelicansDied of a gunshot wound to the abdomen
2015Lauren Hill19ForwardMount St. Joseph LionsBrain cancer
2015Michael Wright35Power forwardCholetHomicide (found dead in New York City)
2011Robert Traylor34Power forward / CenterVaqueros de BayamonHeart attack during the game
2009Lavelle Felton29Shooting guardPaderborn BasketsHomicide by gunshot
2008Marvin Stone26CenterAl-IttihadHeart attack during the halftime
2007Eddie Griffin25Power forward / CenterMinnesota TimberwolvesDied in a car crash
2007Jovan Manovic29Point guardAS PrishtinaHomicide by gunshot
2005Jason Collier28CenterAtlanta HawksHeart enlargement (cardiomegaly)
2004Tauras Stumbrys34Point guardAtletas KaunasHeart attack during the game
2003Patrick Dennehy21CenterBaylor BearsHomicide by gunshot
2003Ryan Francis19Point guardUSC TrojansHomicide by gunshot
2000Haris Brkic26Small forwardPartizanHomicide by gunshot
2000Conrad McRae29Power forward / CenterOrlando MagicHeart enlargement (cardiomegaly) during the practice session
2000Bobby Phills30Shooting guardCharlotte HornetsDied in a car crash
2000Malik Sealy30Small forward / Shooting guardMinnesota TimberwolvesDied in a car crash
2000Orlygur Aron Sturluson18Point guardNjarovikAccidental fall
1999Kim Perrot32Point guardHouston CometsLung cancer
1999Katrina Price23Shooting guardPhiladelphia RageSuicide by gunshot (Self Suicide)
1997Davide Ancilotto23Shooting guardVirtus RomaBrain Ischemia
1993Reggie Lewis27Small forwardBoston CelticsCardiac arrest during practice
1993Drazen Petrovic28Shooting guardNew Jersey NetsDied in a car crash
1993Chris Street20Power forwardLowa HawkeyesDied in a car crash
1990Hank Gathers23ForwardLoyola Marymount LionsHeart condition (collapsed during the game)
1989Ricky Berry24Small forwardSacramento KingsSuicide by gunshot (Self Suicide)
1989Scott Fenton24Shooting guardPerth WildcatsDied in a car crash
1989Fernando Martin Espina27Power forward / CenterReal Madrid BaloncestoDied in a car crash
1987Nick Vanos24CenterPhoenix SunsPlane crash
1986Len Bias22Small forwardBoston CelticsHeart attack and drug-induced
1982Bill Robinzine29Power forwardUtah JazzSelf Suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning
1981Connie Kunzmann24ForwardNebraska WranglersHomicide by stabbing
1980Terry Furlow25Small forward / Shooting guardUtah JazzDied in a car crash
1977Luciano Vendemini24CenterChinaMartini TorinoHeart failure (undiagnosed Marfan’s syndrome)
1975Wendell Ladner26ForwardNew York NetsPlane crash
1970John Postley30Forward/CenterWilkes-Barre BaronsHeart attack
1969Radivoj Korac30Power forwardPetrarca PadovaDied in a car crash
1968Slobodan Popovic24ForwardCrvena ZvezdaGroin injury complication
1965Wayne Estes21ForwardUtah State AggiesAccidental electrocution
1946Huck Hartman25CenterYoungstown BearsPneumonia

Len Bias – 1986

Len Bias was an NBA player who played for the Boston Celtics. As a small forward passed at the age of 22. No one ever got to witness how good Len Bias, a 22-year-old University of Maryland basketball player, may have been in the NBA. Bias died of a cocaine overdose two days after being picked by the Boston Celtics in the year 1986.

The prospect of Bias, he was one of the best players in Atlantic Coast Conference history, who joined a squad that had Larry Bird, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, and Kevin McHale surely sent tremors through the NBA. Unfortunately, such a squad would never play at the same time on the floor. Bias death resulted in tougher anti-drug laws and NCAA rules. The ESPN documentary Without Bias documented Bias’ life and effect in 2009.

Reggie Lewis – 1993

Reggie Lewis, a Boston Celtics guard, was in the midst of a brilliant career when he fell and died in the summer of 1993. He was 27 years old when he passed away. Lewis, who stood 6’7″ and weighed 195 pounds. He had previously and in his recent times ended a season in which he scored 20.8 points per game. He was an All-Star in 1992 and was expected to be the Celtics’ franchise player after Larry Bird retired.

Lewis died suddenly from structural heart disease. The 27-year-old had previously displayed indicators of heart troubles when he fainted during Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Charlotte Hornets. During the 1994-95 season, the Celtics retired Lewis’ No. 35 jersey at a ceremony.

Manute Bol – 2010

Former center Manute Bol was one of the most remarkable players in NBA history, standing 7’7″ and weighing 200 pounds. Bol was only good at one thing which is shot-blocking, but he was a master at it. His 3.3 blocks per game average ranks second all-time, and his presence in the lane prompted rival teams to change their attacking tactics. He only has 1,599 points and 2,086 blocks in his NBA career. Bol’s influence extended far beyond the basketball floor, as he used his wealth and celebrity to help his native Sudan. Bol died in 2010 at the age of 47 from kidney problems. Also maintained a basketball academy after his NBA career ended.

Drazen Petrovic (1964 -1993)

Drazen Petrovic was an NBA player who played for the New Jersey Nets. As the shooting guard, he passed away at the age of 28. He was mostly known for his stint with the New Jersey Nets, but he was a standout in both Spain and Yugoslavia before joining the NBA and the Portland Trail Blazers in the year 1989.
Petrovic got his start with the Trail Blazers, which is ironic in some ways. The 6’5″ shooting guard was one of the first Europeans to succeed in the NBA. His success paved the way for others like Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol.

Petrovic had the third-best three-point percentage in NBA history when he retired (43.7 percent). Petrovic was termed into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2007. 14 years after he was killed in a vehicle accident on the Autobahn when he was 28 years old. This year’s Three-Point Shootout saw Anthony Morrow memorialize Petrovic by donning his jersey.

Dennis Johnson (1954-2007)

Although Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish deserve the majority of the credit, the Boston Celtics would not have won NBA championships in 1984 and 1986 if it hadn’t been for Dennis Johnson.
Before joining the Celtics in 1983, the 6’4″ point guard had already won a championship with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979.

Dennis took on the position of playmaker/defensive specialist once he arrived in Boston. Johnson was named to the NBA All-Defensive Team nine times in a row, including with Seattle and Phoenix.
The Celtics point guard was dubbed “the best backcourt defender of all time” by renowned Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson in 1991.

In his later years, Johnson shifted his focus to scouting and coaching, and he died of a heart attack in 2007 while coaching the NBA D-Austin League’s Toros.

Pete Maravich (1947-1988)

Ricky Rubio of the Minnesota Timberwolves is sometimes compared to “Pistol” Pete Maravich, although the comparison is unfair to both men. Maravich was a superb facilitator who wowed fans with his dribbling and passing skills, but he was also a transcendent talent who could score from anywhere on the court.

Even though the three-point line was not introduced until his final season, the five-time NBA All-Star averaged 24.2 points per game over his career. Maravich was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987 and was chosen to the league’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996.

Maravich, 40, died of a heart attack during a pickup game, and with his death, we lost the player the Hall of Fame describes as “possibly the greatest creative offensive genius in history.”

Wilt Chamberlain (1936 -1999)

Wilt Chamberlain’s statistics are like something out of a video game. Most basketball fans are aware that he once scored 100 points in a single game, but he also had a single-season scoring average of 50.4 points per game from the years 1961 to 62 and career averages of 30.1 points per game and 22.9 rebounds per game.

The pride of Overbrook High School in Philadelphia cast a shadow that was nearly larger than the game itself, as “The Big Dipper” is one of the best players in NBA history. Chamberlain, who stands 7’1″, is primarily responsible for several rule modifications, notably the enlargement of the lane to prevent him from posting up close to the basket. Chamberlain died of congestive heart failure in 1999, but his records and legendary status in basketball will carry on in perpetuity.

Read also: 25 Excellent Youngest NBA Player To Win A Championship


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Chethan HC

Hello, I am a passionate and dedicated writer with a deep love for Basketball. With years of experience in both creative and technical writing, I have sharpened my skills and developed a unique representative that resonates with readers. I am constantly seeking out new opportunities to challenge myself and grow as a professional writer. In my free time, you can find me lost in a good book, traveling to new and exciting places, or simply enjoying the beauty of nature. I hope you find my blogs informative. Have a nice time ahead, Thank you...!

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